This is an DRAFT of an article inside Global Art Daily Magazine Issue 01, 'Street Futures'.
“Kids these days are more interested in fashion than art”, said Virgil Abloh (designer, Off-White creative director, and Instagram celebrity) in a lecture he delivered Harvard University in 2017. This comes as no surprise: a lifestyle of photoshoots, good-looking models, access to celebrities, and fame is more attractive to 20-year-olds today than lonely contemplation in a paint-filled studio. Warhol’s Pop Art has become Abloh’s Street Wear.
When streetwear enters the white cube, it takes on the form of a pop-up. As an exhibition, it functions less like a typical retail experience and more like an exhibition, using glass cubes, pedestals, carefully curated and placed garments or machines. Often times the designer himself is present to sign autographs, take photographs or screen-print limited edition tshirts on-site. In this setting, the designer functions like an artist at his solo exhibition: gathering attention from press and performing an act of creation in front of a fan crowd. These types of events may not be called exhibitions, but they are held in prestigious gallery addresses in the heart of a major city’s artistic hub. An example is the recent February 2018 exhibition held at London’s respected Gagosian Gallery showing a special ‘pop-up-esque’ collaboration between Abloh and Takashi Murakami, art world megastar. The chosen exhibition title, 'future history' reveals the ephemeral yet instateneous buzz of the whole entreprise.
Before this Gagosian show, Abloh had a series of meet-and-greet events in late 2017. Held throughout the world, these events were sponsored by Nike and Off-White to promote the two brands' latest sneaker collaboration. One of these events was held last October at Dover Street Market Ginza, one of Tokyo’s best fashion destination. Standing a table, signing sneaker after sneaker, Abloh's aura was both approachable and highly calculated. It resembled the aura of an established artist at his exhibition opening.
Arguably, the one who prompted this ‘streetwear exhibition’ trend was Kanye West with his series Pablo Pop-Up Shops. In 2016, he orchestrated seven different pop-ups in seven different cities throughout the world, at the same time. What resulted was a social media frenzy, and lines after lines of fans and ‘hypebeasts’ queuing up simultaneously from Berlin to Los Angeles.
Contemporary artists are often secluded in their own bubbles; and that’s what streetwear aims to break. By creating its own bubble online, accessible to all with a smartphone, this movement might be the most interactive and accessible form the art world has yet seen. Abloh’s Instagram is arguably a 24/7 gallery, which transports viewers from city to city, from DJ sets, to ateliers and backstage of fashion shows, always framed with his signature quotation marks. But this online bubble, as ‘democratic’ as it appears, remains unattainable. I personally tried to meet Abloh at his Nike shoes event and could only get a glimpse of him, being asked to stand away because I didn’t have a lottery ticket to even stand in queue.
Abloh claims that Streetwear is the artistic movement defining our generation. Time can only tell if his projections are right.